tv After Words with Bret Stephens CSPAN January 17, 2015 10:00pm-11:01pm EST
mr. stevens argues our enemies competitors around the world are taking advantage of the void left by the u.s. and switch his focus from international to domestic concerns. this is about an hour. >> host: hello, i am bob minzesheimer and i'm here to interview bret stephens a pulitzer prize-winning columnist with "the wall street journal" and the author of "america in retreat"." what is there the retreat all about? >> guest: well it's an america that over the last six years has in a way that we haven't seen in decades decided that the better course for our foreign-policy is to have a lot less of a foreign policy. we are reacting to the perceived overcommitment of the bush of
administration, the george w. bush administration. we want less engagement in the middle east. we want to turn our backs on a war on terror that seems to many people to be unwinnable. we want to provide less by way of military assurances, fire power in east asia, in europe and this is a replica in a sense of a pattern of american foreign-policy behavior after the first world war. people would take the stargel mind now that we had a president named woodrow wilson who went to war to make the world safe for democracy and after the war was over and after it was one a lot of americans concluded that the game hadn't been worth the candle. they did not want to remain engaged in global affairs. they did not want to police the world order that had been established at versailles so we
turn inward to the 1920s and a republican administration and again in the 1930s for much of the roosevelt of administration at least until the late 1930s. the retreat i'm speaking of now largely replicate that pattern that history and the argument i'm making is doing so is not going to mean that our problems are going to abate. we are dividing a global disorder which is the subtitle of the book which is going to come around to haunt us. i started writing this book a couple of years ago. i think now in the beginning of 2015 some people might say with the rise of places in the invasion of ukraine, chinese aggressiveness toward its neighbors, iran steady march through some kind of nuclear capability so i'm worried about the pattern of american foreign-policy. one of the points that i make is retreat is a choice the one
administration is made and one that this administration can reverse. >> host: your book was published in november so some of our listeners have read it and a lot have yet to read it so we are speaking to both those people who have read it and you have yet to read it. you make a distinction between retreat and decline on page 22 in fact. we are in retreat but not in decline. >> guest: right. >> host: is the difference between defeat and decline? >> guest: decline is something that happens to countries for reasons that are typically beyond the reach of anyone political leader or several political leaders to reverse. france has been in decline for a very long time. generation after generation of french political leaders have
tried to stem the decline. they haven't succeeded. japan is a country in decline for reasons that have to do for example with demography or attitudes about immigration. prime minister shinzo abe found it really hard to turn that around as well. russia by the way is in a tremendous amount of decline. i don't for a second think that the united states is in decline and there's an entire chapter in the book to explain precisely making a case that the united states for sure is going to remain the dominant economic political social power if you will as well as the military power throughout the rest of my life and probably my children's life as well and maybe well beyond that but nations that are not in decline can still be in retreat because they make these choices in nations that are in decline as russia is can still be on the march as we are witnessing today. so that's the distinction that i want to draw and actually is
because we are not in decline because we will remain the world's number one that our enemies or adversaries are still going to be gunning for us one way or another whether it's the militants of islamic state whether it's china's general seeking to kick us out of east asia, whether his russian politicians seeking to revise the conclusions of the cold war. >> host: you mention in your subtitle the new isolationism and the coming global disorder. why coming? >> guest: i won't say who it was but a prominent person who read and liked this book said i liked it very much. the only word is the word coming which should be the current global disorder but in fact i think it's going to be you ain't seen nothing yet. i think it's going to be worse. for example of falling oil prices all of us are celebrating as consumers driving a car and
not having to pay four bucks for a gallon of gas and we think that it gives us leverage over countries like russia and iran that perhaps we didn't enjoy before. my sense in fact is that russia and iran will become more dangerous as oil prices decline because they are now going to seek other ways to get out of their economic predicament. typically you think of a country like argentina in the early 1980s wheeling economically. what did it do? it invaded the falcons. iraq in the early 90s again under oil prices falling. they invaded kuwait so the decline is going to be worse. you asked about the isolationist and one of the objections to the book that i've
not on a large military not on bases in japan or germany but right here at home. rebuilding our infrastructure improving our schools and so on and so the case for isolationism or what i call isolationism is a strong case. it's a smart case and it has to be dealt with that way. he can't just be dismissed as a bunch of yahoos because we are making fundamental claims about what the united states ought to be about. i happen to think they are wrong but i don't want to dismiss or denigrate. >> host: is a columnist and editor from the editorial page of the "wall street journal" i take it you are conservative. >> guest: guess. >> host: would you call your book conservative? >> guest: at the heart of the book is a case for conservative foreign-policy but conservative doesn't mean george w. bush's freedom agenda and in fact much of my book is dedicated to criticizing what i see as some
dangerous strains in the republican establishment foreign-policy views over the last decade or so. when george bush sat in his second inaugural the policy of the united states was overtime to rid the world of tyranny. that struck me and i think struck a few other people as substituting utopianism per foreign-policy. foreign politics is like all politics in the realm of the possible. i don't think we ever going to find a world free of tyranny because we will never find a world free of human beings with malice and evil and ambition and greed in their hearts. so suddenly in the middle of the bush administration we became infatuated with this idea that we were going to plant the seeds of democracy in the heart of the middle east. that strikes me and i think most of our viewers would agree as an overly ambitious if idealistic and misbegotten foreign-policy.
now it's funny the wheel is turning and in you listen to a lot of people who associate with a tea party. take sarah palin. her view of the crisis in syria as he famously put it let allah sort it out. i don't believe in the sarah palin foreign-policy doctrine when it comes to for example syria. letting all is sorted out as has been 200,000 people dead and turning a domestic crisis in syria into a massive regional crisis. it's created a power vacuum in the chaos which has been filled by hezbollah in the islamic state. multiply their problems rather than kept them at arm's length. so i'm a conservative foreign-policy thinker and probably the most storied conservative on the editorial page today that my barbs are bipartisan. >> host: you were critical of both president obama and rand paul who's likely to run for president next year.
in the indication that either of them were aides to then have read the book? >> guest: i know that friends of theirs have read the book because probably the nastiest reviews that i have had have been on the more libertarian leaning side of the aisle. there are democratic leaning thinkers who take to the task for other reasons. a columnist in the "boston globe" basically said this whole idea of retreat is exaggerated. obama in fact has been engaged in a different way. i think a libertarian angle is more pronounced because they think they take the accusation of isolationism is some kind of stain on their character and what i'm trying to save them as no guys you are operating in a great foreign-policy tradition. i just happen to think that since the second world war it hasn't been an especially good policy. >> host: if about 4045 minutes left that i like to leave the book for couple minutes and talk
about the author, that is yourself. you are 41 years old, is that correct? you were raised in mexico city. describe what that was like. >> guest: yes. first of all i was born in new york and wondering why wikipedia keeps insisting that i was born in mexico. but i was born to a father who had been born in mexico and had a family business there when i was an event we moved there. that was where my childhood was spent. i think being an american raised outside of united states for a significant portion of time is terrific in two senses. first of all it means that i speak a foreign language fluently. i'm acquainted with another culture intimately but it also gives me i think a much richer appreciation of the united states. as to give an example when i was a child we used every few months my parents would pack up our ltd station wagon and we would drive
from mexico city to mcallen texas. i haven't been back to mcallen texas since i was a child but as a a kid i remember it as heaven on earth. it was interesting because all you did was cross a little river river. the geography was the same but it was a different world. it was a world where you could put a glass under the tap in the sink and you could drink the water from the tap. i remember to this day that strikes me as miraculous. when i'm thirsty at night i don't get bottled water. i just put on the tap and drink a glass of water so it made me aware that a lot of what here in the u.s. we assume as mundane and everyday and taken for granted is actually quite extraordinary given what the rest of the world is like. before the advent of bottled water to drink water in mexico you had to boil water or else he ran the risk of becoming seriously ill. so they gave me an appreciation
of the specialness of the niceties that i don't think i would have had if i had been raised in westchester. >> host: do you consider yourself a mexican-american? >> guest: no i'm an american citizen. put it this way during the world cup if mexico had gone up against the united states by would have rooted for mexico and i'm tremendously proud of what mexico has accomplished over the last few decades despite the headlines about the narcotraffickers. i love the country. it's one of the reasons why i think unlike many conservatives i have been very sympathetic to a more liberal immigration policy because i think what latin americans have contributed to american life is just as great as what immigrants of all stripes and their forebears who came from lithuania and russia and other places have contributed. that too maybe alters my makes me a conservative with a slightly different angle. >> host: where did you guys
go? >> guest: i went to boarding school in massachusetts at school called middlesex. boarding schools have a terrible reputation of cruel capricious salida schools. i thought it was not only fantastic education. i thought there were caring teachers and a greater emphasis on participation volunteerism. i started a little alternative newspaper in high school which gave me my first taste of the joy of writing something and having it read. >> host: why was it alternative? >> guest: there was a mainstream paper and we thought we could do better so we wanted to provide competition on campus. >> host: on political grounds or cultural? >> guest: mainly the official campus paper published for her five times a year and we were at dedicated school of british students to coming out every other week so we published many more additions and we ended up
getting ourselves into all kinds of trouble by reveling the faculty and saying things that now in retrospect looks a little sophomoric but at the time seemed fun. >> host: have you been back to your high school? >> guest: i have come its beautiful. >> host: you went to chicago. what did you major in? >> guest: the short answer is i majored in political philosophy. they want answers i majored in program called fundamentals which really was a continuation of the great books program where we would spend a small group of students and a professor senior professor would spend an entire semester sometimes two reading just one book so for instance reading aristotle's nick mckeon ethics thomas more's utopia of reading the debates of the federalist and anti-federalist. so was the kind of an effort to really understand these writers and thinkers as they understood themselves rather than the way political science or history operates which is more meta.
>> host: were you a stirred and journalists in college? >> guest: i was not. i wrote one or two pieces for the school paper at the university of chicago i worked probably harder at the university of chicago than i have at any other time in my life. and i look back on it with mixed feelings because i think i was supposed to be having fun and partying in college and instead i was closing the library almost every other night. on the other hand when i look at what i write as a columnist, the way i think in my terms of reference they are so deeply influenced by what i was reading at the university of chicago that over time the echo signal becomes stronger not weaker and i feel that much more grateful that i had a first-class education. >> host: after the university of chicago you want to the london school of economics?
why? >> guest: good question, seemed like a good idea of the time. if i could do it over again i would not have done it. >> host: why? >> guest: i think the time was misspent. >> host: and then what happened? >> guest: then i went to work for "the wall street journal." i did a brief internship with the journal. when i was a graduate student on a lark i wrote an op-ed wrote an op-ed for my own edification and i thought let's see if we can get this published soy scented to "the wall street journal" and they published it. it's a wonderful feeling. to this day the memory of waking up in the morning that they had me the piece was published, this was before the internet. so i ran out to the nearest bookseller bought a copy of the paper anxiously turned the pages in their eyes on my byline in "the wall street journal."
and it was a marvelous sensation. the topic was nationalism and democracy. and so on the basis of that i was given an internship. i got in touch with the editor and applied for an internship. i was granted a two-week internship in the brussels office of the journal and i don't know what exactly they were thinking but on the basis of a very brief internship they hired me. i went to work for the journal in new york city and shortly after that for a couple of years after that went to brussels. i started writing about the european union a great deal. brussels is a greater education and spending time among the very diverse europeans but then i started covering the middle east out of brussels. not long after september 11 sort
of out of the blue i got a phonecall from the publisher of "the jerusalem post" who asked me if i would be interested in being the editor of the paper. i was 27 years old at the time. ipod it seems interesting. >> host: what was that like? >> guest: this was at the height at what is now or is the second intifada which was a period of recurring suicide bombings accommodating in a terrible bombing at the baton you, the city of the tonya seder dinner. almost 30 people dead, an invasion by israeli forces of the west bank and the encirclement of kafka in 2000. the invasion of u.s. forces of iraq which also coincided with my time there. it was like growing up fast as a journalist and having the responsibility for newsroom
being thrust into a position of some managerial responsibility was eye-opening. there was tough. i was there for three years but every year felt like it was the equivalent of seven. >> host: those three years in israel how do you you think has affected the way you look at politics and philosophy? >> guest: well, you know i mentioned going to mcallen as a touchstone in my political worldview. when i was living in israel i met my wife there our first child was born in israel. there must have been four or five suicide bombings and i would say a five for 600-yard radius of my apartment give or take. there was a suicide bombing which i remember vividly in january 2004 literally just down the street from where we lived.
my wife and i were fussing over her newborn baby at 8:30 in the morning. we are to blast. i walked out and i was just about the first person on the scene of the bombing. it was a bombed out bus on the street that was at a little bit of an angle just about a block shy of the prime minister's residence ariel sharon's residents. to see a suicide bombing and the effects of the suicide bombing right after the bombing not 20 minutes later when they have put out fires and started to cover the corpses but immediately afterwards gave you a visceral sense of the horror of terrorism, the horror of these kinds of attacks and so it's important meant one hand i wish they'd never seen it and on the other hand has been instrumental
to my moral and political education to understand what is really meant by the word literally by the word carnage, emphasis on carnage, what it means to blow people up and i have never lost sight of that. i think maybe this must be true of anyone close to the scene of lower manhattan on september 11 you just understand in a visceral sense that people who have conceded that close will never understand. >> host: midway through our interview and we will return to the content of the book but before i do that tell me why did you decide to write this book and how did that go? >> guest: my standard joke is that my mother had been urging me to write a book and if your mother nudges you long enough you end up writing it just to get her off your back. that's part of it but she was a nudge and it did help me start
writing. a couple of years ago in 2012 i sense sensed that we were entering into a period of discord and this was a time when broadly speaking i think most americans would have argued that we actually had a window from history that the global situation is relatively benign. there were problems here and there but on the whole we had have executed a responsible exit from iraq. or make a responsible transition in afghanistan. we had reset relations with russia. we were trying to build a sensible new relationship in east asia so forth and so on. i think most americans agree with that because i think i was the view that was being promoted by the obama administration a kite on a path to defeat. i think most americans agree. i felt very differently. i've looked at your pain subcontinent that struck me as
being at the beginning of its economic troubles and by no means the end of it. you look at russian you realize this was a country where democracy was effectively being abolished and replaced by i don't want to say a neo-soviet the henao czarist ruler and we saw that an invasion of georgia. i looked at china and the micro microinvasions to borrow a term in the east and south china sea. with the understanding of first world war the origins of the first world war it's a crisis at the periphery becoming a crisis at the center but i looked at iran moving towards a nuclear capability in iraq descending into chaos what we then called al qaeda researched. i had this idea that in fact we were entering into a period of global disorder and that flush that out in an 8000 word article in "commentary" magazine.
after writing that article i thought in fact what really unites this is all of this is happening as america is turned inward. we already have a say said this historical experience of what happens in the world when america turns inward. there is a connection and so was that basis that i started to write the book. >> host: your publisher isn't alone which is a conservative imprint of random house, a major factor. what was the first printing of your copies? >> guest: you know i don't know. think right now we are somewhere over 30,000. probably more but my agent would know that. >> host: all right another question you might not know. how many have sold at the 30,000? >> guest: the last i saw was about 14,000 or so but again i'm always reluctant to say this because i could be wrong but i
think it's in that ballpark. i think it's selling well. >> host: and a c-span boost is about to happen. >> guest: the lovely thing about c-span if i may shamelessly flatter the people that are watching the show is a literate readers who care about the world whether they agree with everything i say or not our sensible intelligent and worldly and this book hopefully as a contribution to their sense of the world. >> we have about a half hour left so let's get to the book. "america in retreat." page eight of quote from john kerry secretary of defense -- secretary of state, excuse me. the error air of the monroe doctrine is over. that's worth applauding. that's not a bad thing. explain that only think of it. >> guest: i think the monroe doctrine has served not only us but latin america well.
>> host: for those who forget what the monroe doctrine is. >> guest: was written by john quincy adams during the monroe monroe administration when quincy adams was secretary of the state but essentially doctrine that the united states will not allow european or foreign powers to intervene and meddle in the affairs of westerners. and look right now the chinese are becoming patrons of the regime in venezuela of an increasing liberal or friends of the liberal regime in ecuador. the iranians we now know have extensive ties throughout latin america in places like venezuela venezuela. russia is once again threatening at least to boost its traditional or pre-cold war security ties with cuba. i'm not exactly sure how
american interests are well served by a secretary of state reviving a foreign-policy doctrine that most people probably don't spend all their time thinking about simply in order to announce that it's dead. we do not want russia to china or iran intervening in latin america and i don't think quite frankly venezuelans, cubans are ecuadorians do either. >> host: back to the book. part of your criticism of president obama which there is much in the book. he's not the only one you criticize. you refer to him compared to the legendary viking king. >> guest: the viking king or maybe english depending on your sense of history who stood on the shore line and command that they tides recede to prove his godlike powers. when the president says the tide of war is receiving he can only
observe that tide receding. he cannot command it to recede. we cannot simply say you know what the war in iraq is over and we are going to put an end to what to call the war on terrorism. the person at the national defense gave a speech effectively saying exactly that though we cannot allow this war on terror to define our generation and so we are going to change your attention to something else and by the way great news for qaeda koro qaeda is about to be defeated and all the other terrorist groups affiliates of al qaeda and offshoots of al qaeda what he later called the jv team of global terrorism. so this was an effort by the president to simply say let's not pay so much attention to this global jihad problem. lo and behold within a few months of him offering this
announcement we saw massive resurgence of central arab world. a year later in 2014 isis, whatever you want to call it, took over mosul and now controls the territory that is enormous has declared that it's a caliphate. this was this misbegotten a pronouncement as george w. bush's notorious mission accomplished moment on the aircraft carrier back in 2003. >> host: in the book you also write at one point only in the age of obama to worsened by means of attitude and expectation adjustment, learning to quote move on with opponents of left-wing politics. i was going to say what about vietnam? is there an analogy they are? did vietnam do that? >> guest: well look, vietnam
among the war in vietnam gave rise to that wonderful phrase from george aiken the liberal vermont senator let's declare victory and come home. i'm not going to get into the analogy because it's a complex analogy and almost an hour's worth of television time but let me speak to what the president was saying. he was saying you know what we need to do is stop hyperventilating about this terrorism threat. lots of people, okay so for example 12 journalists have been murdered for 16 people were murdered in paris. a number of cartoonists who have provoked jihadists islamic fanatics with their cartoons but you know 16 people how big is that? how important out that the? let us turn attention to that speech where he referred to some
woman who had been badly scarred in a terror attack and this woman's comment was kind of fun. that's very admirable for this woman who suffered atrociously in a terror attack to say that's a reality but it's hard -- leon trotsky supposedly once said he may not be interested in war the war is interested in you. one could say we may not want to be interested in jihad. we may not want to be interested in the middle east that jihad in the middle east are interested in us. >> host: in the book you write about peripheral complex. you mentioned spain in the 1930s, syria and this decade and compare them. explain that a little bit to readers. >> guest: the civil war in spain became a proxy war in its day in the 1930s. >> host: my understanding is liberals in america supported getting involved. >> guest: there was a famous
abraham lincoln brigade. it is a relative of mine a very famous leader composer went and bought an abraham lincoln brigade. george orwell was involved but this was a war that in a sense anticipated the kind of conflict that the world would have less than a decade later. the nazis were very involved. the germans were very involved supporting franco. i'm sure everyone who's watching the show is familiar and people who were on the left came to support the republic came to support the soviet union as well run the other side. this was kind of a proxy war the cap burning and burning and increasingly horrific ways. they there were descriptions of what happened in barcelona and babylonia the day that really match some of the information, the images that are coming out at this very moment from comsat
aleppo in the outskirts of damascus so these become proxy wars that are about to burn out of control and they help set the scene for larger complex that follow. >> host: what should we be doing in syria now? >> guest: well not very difficult. it's almost like asking a doctor will we have the patience to years ago had a stage i cancer. now it has stage iv because the patient or the doctors or society or whoever has simply refused to treat. let me tell you what we should've done. we have -- should have intervened early in the protest were entirely peaceful when isis didn't exist, when there was a real chance to overthrow bashar assad probably by using exiled syrian politicians
bob -- bashar assad's former vice president by dissident syrian generals. they could've formed a decent pluralistic coalition that could have held the country together. could i promise you it would have had a perfect outcome? of course not, we are in the realm of mood history if you will but we did nothing then. then it became a military complex it may have something called the free syrian army which comparatively speaking was a group that we could've worked with. we could've worked swiftly and effectively to overthrow the the assad regime and deal a strategic blow to russia. we did nothing then. all of a sudden jihadists group started forming so we went from stage i, 23 to the stage iv cancer that we have right now which is that the worse people hezbollah and the one side with its backers of the assad regime in iran an islamic state on the other are contending for his pharmacy. so right now some unlike rand
paul do in the beginning wanted no involvement whatsoever could save look it's one group of bad guys against the mother group of bad guys and they played on all of their houses but that doesn't justify the policy of inaction that brought us to this terrible past where right now serious not just a crisis in syria but a crisis for the entire world in a geopolitical disaster for the united states. i think the most important thing we can do now is first of all target the assad regime establish no-fly zones to protect what remains enclaves where the free syrian army continue to target and a much more way the islamic state not a policy pinprick bombing and create some kind of space if it's possible and again i can't say with confidence that it is that some third alternative third way could emerge in syria.
but now it's a much more difficult task than before because an action has consequences that are often worse than the consequences of action. >> host: you are also critical of paul brennan's actions in iraq and you call them the new douglas macarthur. why? >> guest: well actually he kind of reminds me, he was the one of the douglas macarthur. douglas macarthur took over in japan in 1945 and prove to be one of the most brilliant administrators and andrey constructors the world has ever seen. we have douglas macarthur and when you think of douglas macarthur is a general masterful landings in the philippines and korea but he actually said japan on the course where it's now this specific and mean it in a peaceful sense not just a
geographical sense technologically advanced first world liberal democracy thanks to douglas macarthur. that happened because of the unique circumstances after world war ii and the genius of this particular administrator. paul bremer came into iraq with a near zero parts that everything in iraq was totally broken and we had to disband the entire iraqi army. we had to debaathified much of the establishment in iraq but that proved to be toxic. it's evidence of how much damage the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time can do. he should move very swiftly to restore sovereignty to the iraqis themselves. that doesn't mean getting our troops out necessarily but to restore sovereignty to the iraqis and we should not try to turn iraq into an exemplary state. you want to ask me what in a nutshell we were right to go into iraq to make an example of
saddam hussein. we spent 400 lives in that effort it took nine months to pull out of. we were wrong to try to make iraq into an exemplary state. that was another 4000 lives and the misbegotten effort which not only failed in terms of political culture but failed in terms of american political culture. i don't think americans will stand for tenure efforts to stand up countries like iraq. >> host: elsewhere you in the book you talk about absence of pax americana. >> guest: pax americana is -- america is not true empire. we have troops in 130 countries but that's only true if you count the marine detachment and embassies in madrid. pax americana in the acrid sense is america as a backstop of a
certain kind of global order where we provide security guarantees for her friends that are meaningful and they keep their own behavior in check that we provide a military presence throughout the world that keeps countries like russia, china from being tempted into aggression and from time to time punishes certain sorts of gross violations of global order for example setting a chemical red line in syria and allowing it to be trampled. >> host: in the end of the book you call forth more military spending and for more military employment more soldiers and for us to become the world's policeman. who is going to support that especially politicians? >> guest: i suspect quite a number of them would. the problem is the term world policeman has gotten this bad
rap. i think it got a bad rap in part because the way we conducted ourselves in iraq as i just described. to be a policeman is not to be policed. you asked about vietnam earlier. among the many mistakes in vietnam the idea of a campaign for hearts and minds is in some ways wrong. hearts and minds is the work of preachers. a policeman is simply in the business of shaping patterns of behavior. the guy in blue that standing right there and if you are a little old lady and you want to shop in your nearest bodega in new york to give an example she will look at that policeman say i feel safe. and if you are a hoodlum looking for trouble you will look at that policeman and say i'm going to take myself elsewhere. and if you are a bad guy and you want to knock the old lady over the head that cop is going to stop you from doing it or arrest
you. that's the role of the world's policeman. that's the role that the u.s. largely filled and fulfilled for most of the post-war period and for all the travails of post-world war ii and all of our travails we never suffered major wars we did in world war ii. we created the free world instead of countries like south korea by defending them so a lot of people right now watching the show are going to reach in their pocket and pull out their samsung phones. samsung that little piece of technology in your pocket is part of pax americana. it's what happens when we defend freedom at its far frontiers and we have created a world that bends toward freedom even if it isn't going to move completely bare. american values, western liberal values when they are not the norm they are often inspiration. that's the world we made by
shaping certain patterns of behavior. i hope there's a candidate gearing up in 2016 and i may have heard from some of these candidates who are interested in the thesis who are looking for foreign policy. they understand that they don't want the porridge which was too hot which was the george w. bush residue that they do want the porch that is too cold which has been the barack obama recipe so what's the just right picture for american foreign policy? this book is an effort to offer that just write porridge. >> host: with a few minutes left and want to go to what's going to happen in the next presidential election but the next question if we spend more money on being the world's policeman does that mean we have less money to spend on domestic? >> guest: a couple of points. yes in some sense it means that although we have as much money to spend as we are growing our economy. as people have confidence in our economy economy and competency by her dad.
we now spend well under 4% of gdp on defense. that's historically a very low figure. during the carter years we were spending close to 6% on defense. during the eisenhower years were spending about 10% of gdp on defense. the average between 1962 and 2007 through the end of the cold war the clinton years and then the war on terror was about 5.5%. so right now we are spending very little on our defense and it's showing up in the fact that we are moving towards the smallest army we have had since before the beginning of the second world war, the smallest baby we have had since the first world war and air force that's undercapitalized, very old. people are flying planes that are sold as their grandfathers in some cases b-52s built in the early 1960s.
we do need to spend money on defense because defense is a core responsibility. people say what about the dead in the deficit? the absence of our debt and deficit comes from our entitlements. that's where the money goes. if you want to address in a serious way our debt problems addressed the entitlement problem but were not going to do it on the back of the pentagon's budget. europe is bankrupt and defenseless for precisely that recipe. >> host: hillary clinton was not mentioned much in the book although there is a prediction for the future so talk a little bit about why you didn't write more about hillary and what you see of her presidential -- >> guest: i do write about hillary. there's an entire chapter in the book and if people are perusing the bookstore after they watch the show turned to chapter 9 which is set in christmas day
2019. hillary clinton is president. >> host: i believe she has easily beaten rand paul. this is not a prediction however. >> guest: put it this way i pulled out my inner tom clancy for a chapter in the book and i wanted to offer a scenario for the future that was possible on current trends. by the way the first thing i write in this scenario is the price of oil is going to plummet in the value of the dollars going to rise. this is going to sharply hurt the economies of commodity on countries like russia and so far the prediction looks pretty good. so i do write about hillary enough sounds. i'm not chuck todd. i'm not a writer of political personalities. my sense is that hillary clinton's foreign policy to the
extent of her husband falls more into the mainstream of foreign policymaking in the post-world war ii period than barack obama. barack obama in my view represented a fundamental break from the post-world war ii bipartisan tradition began with harry truman continued with jack kennedy richard nixon while reagan bill clinton and george w. bush. my sense is that she would be comparatively a much more realistic less ideological foreign-policy president. issued my first choice? i don't have a first choice yet because i don't know but i feel this. >> host: who in the field are you most interested in? >> guest: i honestly don't know because so far the people who are in the field have not been notable for their foreign-policy credit.
maybe marco rubio has established a profile on foreign-policy and away that other would-be contenders have not. the guy who worries me and look i'm absolutely frank about this. the guy guy who worries me is rand paul. stan rand paul is not his father. i think his father sells foreign-policy moonshine in my view and just as george w. bush was not george h.w. bush, rand paul is still a work in progress and you can hear the evolutionist thinking. some of things he has said worries me. the basic view i think that rand paul comes as close in the republican field are much closer to barack obama in terms of foreign-policy outlook than any of the other prospective republican presidential contenders. barack obama wants less of a foreign-policy of the united states for the sake of building bigger and an rand paul what's
up for the sake of smaller government. husker du often meet with politicians? on the record come off the record? >> guest: the best exchanges are off the record exchanges. berries. but it's an opportunity to spend an hour or so with an interesting political figure governor or senator or prospective presidential candidate were some people of note and really get to pick their brains and see if they are capable of answering the following questions. most politicians will prep for the obvious questions. you are a journalist and i a journalist i thinking of is every bit as i do. they have sort of red the four-page cheat sheet but where you really start to see these guys at work is when you start probing a little further and wondering if they have given any
kind of thought to monetary policy, the value of the dollar, the nature of american military engagement, what we got right and what we got wrong in afghanistan and why that matters for the president. it's important to be able to put especially the next presidential contenders to that kind of test. i would much rather instead of these debates we have to have the kind of c-span our the sort that we are having now for a guy like you can really push each of these candidates to see what happens after they say we need a strong america or america is an indispensable country one cliché or another push them and see if there's any depth there because the president can't just operate in the realm of sound bytes. >> host: have ever met president obama? >> guest: i never have. >> host: what question would you ask them if you have? >> guest: going to do to
change or national security team for the remainder of your two years in office? i think we are entering into uniquely dangerous period of time when our adversaries overseas think he's a unique feckless president who is more interested in this domestic policy than is born policy and i think you see them make combination of incompetence and indifference that helped explain the no-show in a political rally in paris. i would start to ask him about the nature of the coffman and cs in his team if that were not the record conversation that i would never say something publicly but that is what i would like to know. i think the next two years are going to be very choppy waters for the united states. it's not just that our enemies think we are weak and your resolute in this as an opportunity to do as they please, our allies are also worried. if you are in israel or saudi arabia may ask yourself whether
america guarantees and you don't need to freelancer foreign policy in ways that might nonetheless involve the united states if it time and manner of. >> host: we have about two minutes left in this our soil and three to the last sentence you write american retreat and ask you to explain a little bit. that is where you write do not dismiss america from its job is the worlds's police. when the thugs show up in your neighborhood as they sometimes do you'll be grateful to know that cop is still walking his old beat and reassuring presence in the still dangerous world. make that case why america should be the world's police. i don't think that's a very popular image. >> guest: what about bayesian and? new zealand is a lovely country
i hear but we are not a country that's going to be irrelevant to the list be irrelevant to the list of the 21st century. we are still going to be the preferred target for terrorists. they're still going to be the country that china is going to want to replace. we are still going to be involved in the struggles and the future of little countries from estonia to taiwan to israel israel, poland and so on. we are going to be the worlds world's number one country for the rest of the century because this is a country with amazing capabilities of renewal and regeneration. so we are not going to be able to essentially say well we just want to be a pleasant little country on the fringe of the world, leave us alone. the world will not leave us alone whether we like it or not so we have to decide how we want to daven out world. for almost seven decades we have shouldered the role of being the world's peace make her but we have also benefited from being the world's policeman. we have benefit from this
remarkably free prosperous technologically advanced integrated network world and we want that world to carry on. no one is who is watching this show would say this is the ideal world and i don't think everyone watching the show says what i want to do with my life is be a cop. nobody watching this wants to live in a neighborhood without a cop and we don't want to live in a world without a copy there. i would rather have america be that cop then have vladimir putin or ban ki-moon or the ayatollah khamenei. that's the real choice we face do so we have to face of the sobriety and seriousness about what where options are and understand that we are doing is the world's police is not altruism. it's a bubble self-interest properly understood which is the great basis of all smart american policy. >> host: thank you for writing a book in talking about it. >> guest: thank you.
about sonia sotomayor? >> guest: we have learned what she has been doing while she has been out of fashion the court for the last five years. this is a political history that tells you how she got on the supreme court and what her life has been like since. it picks up with my wire left off so you learn in the opening chapter how she persuaded her fellow justices to salsa with her but then you also learn how she has been affected behind the scenes on the law and sometimes when she is a man so effective. we have written a biography of antonin scalia's. how are they different and how are they the same? >> guest: well they are a lot the same assemblies. they're both new yorkers want one from queens, one from the bronx both very distinctive personalities, both shaking up the joint in their own ways. of course justice scalia has been there since 1986. she has been there since 2009. i would never underestimate what she is about to do. i think she's a very good agent
for herself but unlike the way he was for himself and they both understand the importance of being visible. look whole visible justice scalia has been with his own books and look how visible she has been already. >> host: if you put on your legal correspondent hat for just a second national press club -- author nida the national press club you happen to be standing next to ted olson the former solicitor general. when he gets before the court joan biskupic what is the reaction of the justices to him and how does he play to them? >> guest: that's a great question something i've studied for a long time because i've been covering the court at least as long as ted ted olson has been around. they know him personally. they know him from way back when. he was in the reagan administration just as chief justice john roberts was in the reagan administration.
he socializes with antonin scalia's spends new year's eve that justice ginsburg. justice scalia and most recently with elena kagan. they know him. when i have conversations with them they will often refer to him by his first name. they pay attention when he speaks just like they pay attention to a lot of the regulars there and he has certainly -- he has been on 60 something arguments before the justices. he has different quirks of which watches the where the how he argues in this fascinating to watch them and how the respond. they respond to many of the former solicitors general just like seth waxman who was the solicitor general for bill clinton and has been no for george w. bush. >> host: does he play to the justices? >> guest: we all know justice kennedy who is often in the swing vote position and they
know which justice might be the swing vote in that case whether it's same-sex marriage or if it's on a pension case. these lawyers know who they need to condense. >> host: you talk a little bit about this in "breaking in." how often can the justice have a personal relationship with the lawyers argued in front of them them? >> guest: they are all appointed for life but they have had history before the court. maybe they once worked for them. elena kagan was the boss to several of men and women who argued before the court now when she herself was solicitor general. so their personal interactions. >> host: what is your next book? >> guest: i don't know but i'm going to be one. so much fun. do you have an idea of? this is more of a political history than a biography and